If you had told me at the age of eighteen after I saw Iron Man (2008) that it’s all going to connect to one of the biggest cinematic moments of all time (Avengers: Endgame (2019)) eleven years later I probably wouldn’t have believed you. And yet that’s what happened and one year later after the release of Avengers: Endgame it still baffles my mind that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was able to build one long story comprising of twenty-two films while at the same time each one be individually watchable on its own. As you can tell by the title of this essay, this will not be an ordinary review for me as this will be a one long retrospective of how I feel about the MCU. Here I will share my thoughts on how the MCU affected me on personal and spiritual levels and how they changed the movie business forever.
As stated earlier, I was eighteen when I saw the first Iron Man in theaters. Even though I was at the age where I was approaching adulthood, watching that film made me feel like a little kid again experiencing movie magic for the first time. Since then I’ve become invested into the world of Marvel and wanted to learn more about the storylines and characters that inhabited it. A few years after Iron Man came out, I watched Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and I immediately discovered who my favorite superhero was from then on. Captain America (A.K.A Steve Rodgers) stood for everything I believed in such as doing the right thing and putting other people before him. In fact my favorite MCU film (outside of Avengers: Endgame) was Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). I’m a little disappointed that they concluded his story arc in the MCU because of how much I love the character but I’m glad they ended it on such a fantastic note that made me tear up a little.
It wasn’t until I saw The Avengers that I knew that the MCU was growing into something big and had no idea where it was going to lead. Since then the MCU expanded into different characters and worlds such as Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Black Panther (2018), both of which received critical acclaim from both critics and audiences alike. The great thing about those films is that they relate to what I said earlier about having individual stories but still being connected. This eventually pays off when all the characters meet up during the climactic battle in Avengers: Endgame, which, to me, was one of the greatest cinematic moments of all time. This may sound like an exaggerated statement, but let’s just say that after spending eleven years watching twenty-two films that lead up to such an exciting ending was deeply impressive. I ended up watching it four times during its theatrical run which is my most watched film in a theater along with Avatar (2009). As you can tell it was one of my favorite movies to come out in 2019.
Full disclosure: when I watched any MCU film for the first time I don’t notice any messages or symbolism pertaining to my faith right away. However since I’ve been writing reviews for certain MCU films, I’ve been thinking a lot how the MCU does relate to me on a spiritual level. The first review that I did (Iron Man) had the theme of redemption which is something us Catholics can relate to, and Doctor Strange (2016) had a lot of symbolism to several characters in the Bible. These are elements that I didn’t notice initially, but after re-watching bits and pieces of them I then start to think about them, I appreciate the films even more. Also, because I didn’t review Avengers: Endgame, I do want to point out the great Christian message that it had which was the value of life. I often tell people that Avengers: Endgame is one of the greatest Pro-life movies of all time due to the premise of the film itself, which was undoing an action that cost the lives of trillions. Whenever we’re given the opportunity to save a life, whether it’s in the womb or from the death penalty, we take it, and the heroes in Avengers: Endgame took that opportunity as stated by Captain America himself “whatever it takes.”
Now to say that the MCU forever changed the business of Hollywood may sound a bit hyperbolic, but when you really think about it, it did make an impact on certain Hollywood studios. It seemed like after The Avengers (2012) was released a lot of other studios tried to replicate the success of having a shared universe. One that was close was the D.C. Extended Universe, which focused on D.C. Comics characters such as Superman and Batman. That particular franchise had some luck in the beginning, but overall it felt like a forced and rushed property that didn’t have the focus to the degree of the MCU. Another way the MCU changed Hollywood were the opportunities given to certain people of color. Black Panther was the first big budgeted superhero film featuring an almost all black cast and it immediately became a pop cultural phenomenon. In fact, the film went on to get nominated for several Oscars including Best Picture, which was the first time that a superhero film achieved a nomination to that degree. While it didn’t win the ultimate award, it did manage to win three Oscars such as best costume, best set design, and best soundtrack. This opened the door to a lot of people and influenced Hollywood to rethink casting decisions when it comes to people of different races. I, for one, am anticipating this for future films down the road.
Not every film is flawless and necessary to watch in order to completely understand the whole story, but the MCU is something of a phenomenon that we haven’t experienced to this measure and I am very thankful that I was able to experience them all theatrically. As a film critic and admirer of comics I can say with full confidence that this is my favorite film franchise and that delivers great content. I’m always looking forward to what this franchise will bring next in terms of entertainment and my faith.